Post Category: Travel

Étretat: Fairytale French Village on the Atlantic

If you’ve already seen the gardens of Versailles and all of the magic that Paris has to offer, and you’re looking to take a quick day trip to one of France’s shorelines, I recommend renting a car or reserving a BlaBlaCar to see the majestic cliffs of Étretat, Normandy.

Étretat is a small seaside village located around two hours northwest of Paris. The village, which inspired some of France’s most famous artists and writers, has now become a major touristic spot for travelers from all corners of the globe. What makes this seaside village so special? Its famous cliffs, of course.

Étretat Normandy Paris Chic

Here Are 5 Things You Should Do in Étretat:

  1. Explore the famous cliffs. There are widely-used hiking trails and much-more-discreet caverns to explore at the famous falaises d’Étretat. And it’s doubtless you’ll snap your perfect fairytale photo of the tiny village and its enormous cliffs from the bird’s-eye view at the top. It’s not so certain that you’ll lug a bottle of cider up the cliff like I did, innocently hoping to enjoy a sunny-day picnic with the ocean at my feet and instead being met with hurricane winds slamming my back into the cliff every 2 seconds, thus resulting in my hurrying to finish the damn bottle of cider because the sunny-day picnic was actually horribly uncomfortable, further leading to my getting piss drunk and stumbling like a drunk high schooler after prom with empty bottle in hand (I recycle) on the descent back towards the village, which “professional” hikers were ever so eager to snicker at. Amateur.Étretat Normandy Paris Chic
  2. Order moules-frites at a restaurant on the beach. There are only a few restaurants a few feet from the sand, and they offer mostly identical “specials” of the day for the same prices. If there’s the option of ordering your moules-frites (mussels and fries) cooked with famous Normandy cider, then do so. And then smile and flirt with your waiter, because when you travel alone like I do, that’s a recipe for lucking out on a free tour guide or bottles of wine on the beach or a corner of his floor to sleep on when you show up at his door crying at 2 a.m. because your hostel bunk was infested with bugs.French Food Paris Chic
  3. Buy loads cider and biscuits. Normandy is your dream come true for finding impersonal-with-a-personal-touch gifts for the distant aunt who gives you knockoff Louis Vuitton bags every Christmas. Many people recommend La Mer à Boire for cider, although you can get quality and cheap cider all over town. I went to La Biscuiterie Jacques Delaunay for my biscuit fix, and they sell their biscuits pre-packaged in cute tin boxes with an Auntie’s cheek squeeze guarantee.Étretat Normandy Paris Chic
  4. Visit Étretat’s #1 supplier of all things goat, La Valeine Goat Cheese Farm. The mom-and-pop farm tour lasts about an hour and if you want excellent, fresh goat cheese, I wholeheartedly recommend the visit. And don’t forget to pick up a chocolate or pint of ice cream made out of goat’s milk. Sharp and delicious. Étretat Normandy Paris Chic
  5. Play away your troubles at the casino. It seems so odd that with the four main streets that Étretat has (you can literally walk anywhere you need to be in 2 minutes or less), they dedicate half of one of these main streets to a casino. A casino. Hardly fitting for a village on the beach, you may think. But you’ll never be more grateful for the flashy and warm insides of the casino if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself in Étretat on a rainy day. There is absolutely nothing to do in this village when it rains. I know, because I asked every waiter at each of the 5 restaurants I took refuge in that day. If your sunny-day picnic and hiking plans are ruined because of shit weather, plop down on one of the plushy couches in the casino. They have free wi-fi, and you can watch 80-year-olds either stare mindlessly at slot machines or dance away their troubles through soft, muted dancing, the way old, old, old people do.

One thing that you probably can’t do in Étretat: swim. I brought my bikini with a hoping heart and found out when I got there that apparently no one bathes in Normandy. HA! Stupid tourist, go to the south if you want to splash water at your tan man while having “fun in the sun.” Here, the water is cold, the “sand” is actually fist-sized rocks, and the view? Well. Can’t say anything about that.

Étretat Normandy Paris Chic

Anonymous Bar: Cocktail Heaven for “V for Vendetta” Fans

Prague: a stunning, untouched city of ancient pastel-colored buildings, cobblestones, and beautiful bridges. So stunning, in fact, that Hitler apparently spared this city from war bombings to someday become the arts capital of Nazi Europe. This Czech city is more than its stupefying architecture, however; as soon as you get a first glimpse of the graffitied walls of downtown, you can feel artistic rebellion in the air.

Lennon Wall Prague

Image Credit: Alexandra Korba

Prague has a thriving underground culture, and I was lucky enough to have my indie/artsy friends show me the coolest spots of the city. Besides the well-known Lennon wall (as pictured above), the awesome metronome that hovers over Prague’s hilltop skatepark, and huge politically-inspired murals that cover the city walls, my friends showed me one final hidden gem that I couldn’t believe existed: a bar themed entirely off my favorite film, “V for Vendetta.”

If you haven’t watched the film, I highly recommend you to stop reading right now and find a way to watch it–I don’t care if you have to stream it illegally. For those of you who have watched this movie, you know that streaming the film illegally online is the *only* right way to pay homage to its message.

The bar is AnonymouS. Yes, with a capital S. And yes, all of the drinks really are based off of major themes from the movie.

As soon as you enter, you’re handed the quirky AnonymouS menus, which are DVD cases with unlabeled disks sitting mysteriously on the inside. The first two pages of the menu are completely blank. However, if you read the cover of the English menu, you’ll find that in order to unlock a secret menu of drinks named after obscure operations, you’ll have to utter a “secret password” to the bartenders.

These highly-skilled guys, who sport Guy Fawkes masks while they make drinks, ensure that you’ll get your history lesson on the operations while you drink. Despite the maybe intimidating aura of the bar, however, the barmen here are silly guys who really love to show off how quickly they can whip up a complicated drink while wearing a plastic mask.

Anonymous Bar

Drinks are pricy for Prague, which makes these intricately-made drinks still a steal if you calculate how much you’re spending in American dollars. For a fancy-schmancy cocktail that would cost around $20 at any upscale American cocktail bar, you’ll end up paying around $9-10 at AnonymouS and other higher-end bars in Prague. And their presentation is impeccable: drinks are served in little wooden dog houses to giant syringes.

Anonymous Bar

A rose petal garnish recalls symbolism from “V for Vendetta,” when protagonist “V” would leave a rose on each person he killed.

AnonymouS Bar

The walls at AnonymouS Bar are covered in quotes from “V for Vendetta.”

Also, it’s very politically-fitting that AnonymouS Bar, which is based off a movie that promotes the questioning of authority, is located in a country that recently emerged from communist rule. There’s no better place for a bar like AnonymouS than Prague, not only because of the underground and artsy atmosphere, but also the appropriate history of politics.

If you’re interested in visiting this bar during your visit to Prague, it’s not easily accessible. If you don’t look sharply enough, you could easily miss AnonymouS while walking down the street–it’s tucked away slightly off the main road, recognizable only by a large Guy Fawkes mask. Check out the bar and “V for Vendetta” fans, I’m warning you: you are gonna fangirl so hard. If you want to visit other underground bars in Prague, my savvy film-studying friends also recommended Hemingway Bar, which is similar in the amazing amount of detail that goes into the experience of a night spent at a cocktail bar.

3 Money Saving Tips for Traveling the World

Traveling doesn’t have to be an expensive ordeal. With the invention of the internet, people are directly organizing accommodation and transportation in other countries for next to nothing. If traveling the world for cheap sounds up your alley, read on for a few of my favorite tips.

1. Fly With a Budget Airline


Traveling on a budget? No problem. There are several budget airlines you can travel with to save money–you’ve probably heard of them already, airlines like SouthwestJetBlueRyanairTransavia, and easyJet. Flying on budget airlines may compromise the luxury of in-flight customer service, free snacks, and a pre-chosen seat, but these airlines oftentimes fly directly to your destination without the hassle of having to transfer terminals at a large airport. Budget airlines usually work by flying in and out of smaller airlines outside of large cities, so you may have to commute a little further than normal to reach your plane.

2. Carpool Across Continents


Are bus, train, and airplane tickets still too painful for your budget to bear? If you need to get to another country on an extreme budget, search for ride sharing programs on the internet. A reliable service for Europe is BlaBlaCar, which allows travelers driving solo to a destination to open their car to other backpackers. You simply have to share the cost of the gas. Enter your departing and final destination and road trips from Paris to Amsterdam, for example, will be available for your choosing.

As far as safety goes? Make sure to check out the reviews from previous road trips that other travelers have written about the driver. It’s also important to check the type car they are driving, whether they have verified their phone number and email address, and whether the BlaBlaCar account is linked to the driver’s Facebook profile.

blablacar

This driver has a solid 43 reviews from other travelers on the ride sharing website.

 

Here’s an insider’s tip: make sure to check out BlaBlaCar in the language of the country you are departing from, as this will oftentimes yield more results than the English version of the site.

3. Find Lodging for Next to Nothing


So your friends are all living in home stays or you binge spent while online shopping the week before. Before you freak out and consider sleeping in the train station as a last resort, know that there are many options for the frugal traveler.

A popular method of traveling for young people is to rent accommodation in a youth hostel. Youth hostels are like hotels, but communal. If you’re a solo traveler, staying in a hostel can be essential to making friends because of the oftentimes organized pub crawls and common areas within the hostel. If you’re worried about sleeping in communal rooms, most hostels either have the option of private rooms for a slightly higher price or will provide you with a locker and a padlock for your belongings. Amenities vary from hostel to hostel: for example, some offer free breakfast, book sharing, bike rentals, tours, and have English-speaking employees. Others will be shabbier. Hostelworld is a great website to check out reviews and book your bed. A typical hostel will cost around €20 or $25 a night.

If you’re traveling with a group of friends, another low-cost idea that gives you more privacy is to rent someone else’s furnished (and typically empty) apartment through Airbnb. If you’re splitting the cost between several people, this can sometimes be even less expensive than youth hostels.

Want accommodation absolutely for free, no strings attached? Check out Couchsurfing. People from the smallest cities all over the world are opening their pull-out beds just for you, and this is all free of charge. It’s a great way for solo travelers to make a close connection with someone abroad, and who knows, you might even get a free tour around the area you’re visiting.

With these money saving tips, travel is more accessible now than ever before. Always be sure to verify anyone that you’re sharing a car or home with; although the majority of these people are really looking to make friends with people from different cultures, it’s important to be aware, especially when making reservations through the internet. Pull out those crush-stalking methods and never say yes to anything that doesn’t feel right.

Can’t wait to see the amazing #wanderlust Instagram pics.

This article was originally published on the Lala.

Table Rock: The Jewel of Laguna Beach

The other day while working at the boutique, I met a lady who was a sourpuss about Southern California. She basically walked into the store complaining about beautiful, perfect SoCal (?!). Here were some of her complaints:

  • The kids are rotten
  • Parents only care about their shiny cars and appearances
  • Everyone is plastic
  • Life is too fast-paced
  • The beaches are filthy and disease-ridden

Although there are definitely many examples of SoCal families who epitomize these stereotypes, I had never wanted to punch someone in the face more. It’s rare to hear someone talk badly about southern California; sure, we have a higher concentrated population of plastic body parts than most other places, but this doesn’t mean that the majority of our people aren’t amiable and appreciative of our year-round perfect weather. And, when you live by the beach, how fast-paced can life be??? Has this woman ever set foot in a real city??? Also, why the heck are you complaining about southern California when there are people who are actually living in places that are bombed and children live in fear of death every day??? Is southern California REALLY THAT BAD????

I might have agreed with the sourpuss woman on the point about her beaches a year ago–after traveling to Hawaii, Mexico and the Mediterranean Sea, I really didn’t think SoCal beaches were in the same league at all. Cold. Dirty. Seaweed-filled. Rough.

HOWEVER. I spent the majority of my last summer dating the self-dubbed “Prince of Laguna Beach,” so I got the royal tour of many of Laguna Beach’s hidden gems. If your only perception of Laguna Beach is limited to the Main beach by all of the shops and restaurants, I am sorry for you.

Enter Table Rock Beach, my new all-time favorite beach in Orange County:

Table Rock, located off the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and West Street, is the one of the most picturesque spots of Orange County’s coast. Not only are the waters CRYSTAL clear (you can see the little fish swimming around your toes), they’re also a gorgeous blue–so blue it’ll make you cry. You won’t think you’re in California; it feels like swimming in the Mediterranean.

There are also tide pools for your sea anemone poking pleasure.

My little brother described the entrance to the beach as “a portal between nature and civilization,” and he’s so right. You have to enter the beach through a steep staircase surrounded by a jungle of vegetation, so much so that as soon as you enter the “portal,” the sound of cars driving on PCH is muffled:

Although West Street’s Beach is as close to any Gulf of Mexico beach you’re going to get in Orange County, be forewarned that it’s also one of the most popular hangout spots for the beauty queen pageant winners and cool kids of high school–perfectly-firm butt cheeks abound.

If you can accept that in their eyes you will never be as cool as them and just do your own thing, I promise you that you’ll find a haven on Table Rock. I even went so far as to go alone last week to the Beach Kingdom of Cool Kids, just because I love the crystal blue waters so much. Bring a book. Or a hat to cover your face to go total incognito. ;) xx

I Visit the Perfectly-Manicured Huntington Gardens

If you live in Southern California and the name Henry E. Huntington does not ring a bell, a thousand shames on you.

Seriously, haven’t you ever wondered where the names Huntington Beach or Huntington Hospital came from? To be honest, I hadn’t, not once in my whole life. But I bet now you’re wondering, aren’t you…

Read on to hear my latest adventures at an attraction of southern California I had personally never heard of in my 20 years of living but draws in over 500,000 tourists a year: The Huntington Library, Gardens, and Art Collections.

Good ol’ Henry E. Huntington: A businessman who held a large financial empire and later dedicated large sums of his money to building railroads, developing real estate, and creating educational centers in southern California. Ah, corporate CEO’s, where would we be without ’em?

Located in lovely Pasadena, California (apparently the old-town of Beverly Hills, where all the lucky rich of L.A. used to squat), the Huntington Library can only be compared to southern California’s equivalent of Versailles: hundreds of acres of gardens to admire, a large mansion with many sitting and powder rooms modeled in the style of the Versailles palace, and a deceased rich person’s home which is now open to everyone in the world to admire. I hope someday my tiny apartment will be of such interest to the ever-curious tourists of the future.

If you’re into botany, culture, or tea, Mr. Huntington has left a haven of all of the above for you.

Botany

There is a shit load of botany for you to admire here–I mean, you really should be expecting this; the name of the place has the word “gardens” in it.

I actually am a big fan of botany, so I really enjoyed walking through the multiple Oriental-themed gardens pretending to be the badass Mrs. Arabella Huntington herself (really, she was badass, well-respected for her choices in art collecting and home decor, go her).

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There are multiple gardens you can explore throughout the vast acres of land; we visited only the Chinese Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Rose Garden. That alone took about two hours, because you get lost in the mazes of exotic trees and roses that all look the same but are categorized somehow into thousands of different breeds named after different rich people. Seriously, what is the criteria for having a rose named after you??? Because I’d so be on that…

huntington gardens

Mr. Huntington also planted California’s first commercial avocado garden, so, you are very welcome, California.

Admission to the gardens is $12 for students on weekdays, so bring your student ID (or pull up your Facebook page and convince the ticket attendant that it’s proof enough that you’re a student at the American University of Paris…). Or, if you’re really a bargain hunter, every first Thursday of the month is a free day to visit the Gardens.

Culture

Huntington also left us his art collections for our free viewing pleasure. If you’re an art history buff, or simply enjoy reading the captions on art pieces to feel more cultured and Jeopardy-ready, then consider finding some shade from the heat of the gardens in Mr. Huntington’s very own crib.

You can also get a free audio guide to accompany you on the journey through the Huntington Mansion, complete with actors’ voices to make the experience all the more real.

Tea

After all that garden viewing and art appreciating, you’ll find your finger sandwich haven at the multiple tea houses and cafes.

Well, you can really only enter Finger Sandwich Land if you stop in to eat at the Rose Garden Tea Room, a busy and bustling indoor tea room complete with an hor ‘doevres buffet. We made a reservation to celebrate my sister’s birthday lunch, although it wasn’t quite the atmosphere we were expecting for an afternoon English tea…

After brunching multiple times at The Tea House on Los Rios, a quaint little outdoor tea house complete with individual tea kettles per customer, beautiful china tableware sets, and a quiet atmosphere interrupted only by the occasional wind chime or far-off train whistle, the tea house at the Huntington Gardens was chaos in comparison.

Let me start by stating how underwhelmed I was by the selection of tea. Although there is a larger selection of hot tea, including the rose tea (absolutely divine) and blackberry tea, it was a blazing hot day and the only option we had for iced tea was a passion fruit blend. Of course, it was refreshing, but not something I’d expect from a tea house. They should really be more sensitive to customers allergic to passion fruit.

As soon as you enter the Rose Garden Tea House, you are greeted by a din of chatter, tableware, and noise from the nearby kitchen. It seems that there is hardly any room to sit–but let me advise to insist on sitting in the back room, which you would only know existed if you went to use the restroom. The back room is quiet and hardly populated while all the other bourgeoisie customers are stuffed into a bustling room that provides the antithesis to the setting of a typical English afternoon tea. It is simply not a comfortable meal.

I am complaining about this because I was literally making out with the wall, I was so squished into my seat. There was no room to shift chairs/tables or else risk being trampled by wait staff hurriedly entering and exiting the kitchen. Plus, I am doubly disappointed because we had reserved space in advance and the table was hardly large enough for five people.

huntington gardens

Me, being a big fan of finger sandwiches, however, was satisfied enough by the egg salad finger sandwiches to forget to voice my complaints at the scene. Each table was also given hot scones with different assorted marmalades, which were delicious. We were able to make our getaway with a few stolen scones.

huntington gardens

My outlaw grandma and her precious stolen scones.

If you think you’re making reservations for a quaint little afternoon tea and scones in a lush-smelling rose garden, you are sorely mistaken. You will be stuffed into an extremely cramped and ulcer-inducing atmosphere whilst you try to enjoy your tea. The wait staff is nice, though, so props to you all for making the experience a little more enjoyable!

I recommend checking out The Chinese Garden Tea House, which at least lets you dine outside and enjoy views of botany while sipping on your tea. It looked like the meals at this tea house were more substantial than finger sandwiches, including noodles, meats, and other hearty Chinese lunch options.

huntington gardens

Overall, Mr. Huntington provides a thrilling day for the ever culture-seeking tourists of the world. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes; the acres and acres of rich people land will leave your feet aching.

huntington gardens

Literally the worst shoes to wear to hundreds of acres of gardens. Courtesy of Serena Mozafari.